The long-running Doha trade talks have finally started to move after a constructive week of talks among key powers that grappled with issues of substance, the U.S. envoy to the World Trade Organization said Feb. 17.
The comments, by U.S. Ambassador Michael Punke, were one of the strongest signs yet that an intensified push to conclude the decade-old negotiations this year were finally bearing fruit.
“My sense is that we’re finally starting to do the things we need to do, which is grapple with the really hard issues,” Punke told Reuters after a week of meetings among 11 major WTO members including the United States.
“We’re in a mode right now where we’re talking about substance.”
Negotiators have been meeting over the past few weeks since trade ministers called last month in Davos for an outline deal by the middle of July, and said they would instruct their negotiators to do what it takes to reach necessary compromises.
The meetings this week of the 11 economies – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the EU, India, Japan, Mauritius, South Africa and the United States – are part of the intensified efforts.
The Doha talks were launched in late 2001 to open up global commerce and help poor countries prosper through trade. But they were largely deadlocked for two years after a push by ministers in July 2008 to reach a deal foundered over disagreement on measures to protect farmers in poor countries from destabilizing floods of imports and proposals to open up industrial markets.
The United States – the key to any deal – has long argued that major powers, especially the big emerging economies like Brazil, China and India, need to move beyond declared positions and get involved in real negotiations of give and take to give the talks a chance of succeeding.